Retelling revered author Roald Dahl’s classic story, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory comes with a big responsibility.
I was delighted to see then that Playful Productions’ update of the iconic children’s book stays faithful to everything we hold dear about this heartwarming tale of Charlie Bucket’s rags to riches adventure – despite being successfully adapted for modern audiences.
This spectacular stage show follows the hit West End and Broadway productions to combine the memorable songs from the original 1970s movie (The Candy Man and Pure Imagination) with all the new numbers from the multi-award-winning songwriters of Hairspray.
For the uninitiated (where have you been?!) the show follows the adventures of Charlie who scoops the last of five golden tickets to earn him/herself a place on a tour of Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory.
But beyond the golden gates the children discover more than most of them can ultimately stomach as they embark on an extraordinary journey through Wonka’s marvellous mind.
The most obvious change is Charlie’s change in gender! While nervous at first of how this might play out with die-hard Dahl fans, it worked well. (Was the chosen character name in the 1960s some form of foresight to a more modern world?)
One area however in which – for me – it did stray a little too far from the original story, was, arguably one of the most memorable. The Oompah-Loompahs have transformed from tiny orange-faced characters to silver robot-like dancers. But the slight sense of surprise didn’t detract from the overall spectacle of what is a must-see fun family show.
In what is a show of two halves, the curtain lifts on Act 2 to reveal that the grey of ‘Grimechester’ has made way for a technicolour explosion, setting us up perfectly for the factory scenes to come.
I was curious to see how they would tackle these in a production that was always going to pose some serious stagecraft challenges. But impressive digital imagery combined with physical trickery to create a series of mind-bending spectacles. This is where stage just can’t compete with screen – but never should you see a show expecting it to do so! All things considered, I think the staging could be classed as a triumph.
The biggest applause of the night was rightly reserved for Jessie-Lou Harvie as Charlie. And Gareth Snook serves up just the right recipe in his portrayal of candymaker Wonka with the eccentricity of Gene Wilder (1971 movie) and just a dash of Johnnie Depp’s menace. (2005)
Escape to a world of Pure Imagination with this delicious dollop of theatre that will leave you with a taste for more!
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory plays at The Birmingham Hippodrome until November 4th. To book visit: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/ or call the Box Office on 0844 3385000.